January 20, 2014
Dr. Saif of University of Illinois, created the first biohybrid swimmer modeled after primitive single celled swimming organisms much like that of a sperm’s flagella, as reported in Nature Communications. Using computational modeling on a biological design, the Saif group was able to optimize the biomechanics of contractile cardiomyocytes seeded onto a flexible tail shaped polymer. The cells self-aligned on the polymer scaffold, and contracted in synchrony. The contraction-deformation created enough propulsion to jettison the biobot forward. During their optimization of the biobots, they discovered a direct positive correlation between the number of tails and the speed of the biobot. Using a theoretical framework based on the swimmer’s geometries, they were able to accurately predict the hydrodynamics of each swimmer. The single tailed swimmers, although over 10-fold slower than their biological counterparts, demonstrate the feasibility of creating functional biohybrids and the advent of more complex models.